Since the enforcement date has already come and gone it is important to understand what the Hands-Free Georgia Act entails and what changes it has brought with it. Here, our injury attorneys in Atlanta review what the law says and what changes it has made to existing traffic laws.
House Bill 673, known as The Hands-Free Georgia Act, was passed by the Georgia General Assembly, and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on May 2, 2018. The Hands-Free Law went into effect July 1, 2018.
Can I Get a Ticket for Using My Phone While Driving?
A driver cannot physically be holding or supporting a phone, or any Wireless Telecommunication device with any part of their body.
A driver may not write, send, or read any text messages, e-mails, social media, or internet data content; unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts spoken messages to written text.
A driver may not watch a video, or movie, unless it’s used for navigational purposes, such as GPS.
A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are an exemption).
A driver may not reach for a wireless telecommunication device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in seated position or to be properly restrained by a seatbelt. In other words, a driver cannot reach for a device if it means that they must move out of their seat or take their seat belt off to reach for said device.
Exemptions to the Hands-Free Georgia Act
A phone may be used when reporting a traffic law violation, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity, or hazardous road condition.
An employee or contractor of a utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment while responding to a utility emergency.
First responders, such as police, fire fighters, and emergency medical services, during official duties.
When a car is lawfully parked. This does NOT include when a vehicle is stopped at a stop sign or red light.
A device may be used if they do not require the physical interaction of the user, in other words, earpieces, headphone device, or a device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication, i.e., a smartwatch.
When operating a vehicle, you can use one button, or touch function, to start or end wireless communication. In other words, the law allows interaction with your phone to start or end a phone call.
Fines for Texting and Driving in Georgia
If, after July 1st, you get pulled over for having a phone in your hands or are found texting and driving, then you will officially be charged with a misdemeanor.
If you break the law for the first time (or have broken this law previously but it occurred over 24 months prior to this citation date), you will be charged 1 point on your driver’s license, which may result in higher insurance premiums in the future. You will also be charged with a fine of $50. However, if you show the court that you have purchased a device that will allow you to be “hands free” then you will not be held responsible for the violation. This privilege can only be used once, so you will be required to affirm that you have not previously utilized this.
Second time offenders within a 24-month period will be charged 2 points on their license and fined $100.
If you break the law three times in 24 months, then you will be added 3 points to your license and charged with a $150 fine.
The Hands-Free Georgia Act is intended to keep pedestrians safe, keep insurance premiums from going up, and most importantly, help prevent car accidents in Georgia. In short, this law has changed a lot and it will be interesting to see how the enforcement of this continues to unfold.
If you, or anyone you know has been involved in an auto accident and you think the other person might have been breaking this law; give our Gwinnett County car accident attorneys a call! At BMW Law Group it is our passion to make this difficult time in your life bearable, communicate with you about what is going on and what to expect at every turn during the process, and making sure that you get everything that you deserve.